BOCA RATON, Fla. — A Martin County Sheriff's Office deputy found the body of Cody Dudek last week, in shallow floodwater before Hurricane Ian made landfall.
The flood was caused by the rain from the outer bands of the hurricane, which is why the regional medical examiner lists his death as storm-related.
An area veterans group hopes people remember the 34-year-old as a soldier who served his country and not just a casualty of Hurricane Ian.
"His death was devastating to us," said Cary Reichbach, the president of Grey Team, a group specializing in mental health and suicide prevention among veterans and those on active duty.
Dudek had just been medically discharged as an Army staff sergeant when he came to the group after surviving combat in Afghanistan.
Dudek was shot, badly wounded and, according to Reichbach, struggled with civilian life when he moved to a home in Lantana.
"He lost his family, his mother and father, at a very early age," said Reichbach. "He lost his young daughter while he was on deployment."
Veterans and friends from Grey Team held a beachfront service for Dudek over the weekend.
They approximated a Viking warrior sendoff, burning a picture of Dudek and tossing the ashes into the Atlantic Ocean.
Dudek's death comes just after he his engagement to his girlfriend in Lantana. Dudek also was promoted to a supervisor's position at his job.
"His life had completely turned around," said Reichbach. "He was, you know, in such a better place than when we first met him."
His relatives are planning a funeral near his hometown of Buffalo, New York.